Originally created 09/18/02

Georgia Tech tries to shake off first loss



ATLANTA -- Georgia Tech's season is starting to look frighteningly similar to 2001, which unraveled with four losses in nine games and left the Yellow Jackets out of the final AP Top 25 for the first time in four seasons.

An overtime defeat to Clemson in the Atlantic Coast Conference opener started last year's free fall. On Saturday, the Tigers again beat Georgia Tech in the first ACC game, holding on for a 24-19 victory.

Both games featured plenty of mistakes by the Yellow Jackets, who never recovered last season. Will 2002 be different?

"We're not going to let that happen," safety Jeremy Muyres said. "There's nothing we can do about this loss. We've got to look forward to the rest of the season."

"That's one thing we've really been emphasizing this week."

To that end, Muyres and the other seniors held a players-only meeting Sunday night, reinforcing that the season isn't over after one loss. Georgia Tech faces BYU on Saturday.

"We've got to get going," Muyres said. "We're nowhere near the end of our season. We've got to keep playing and pushing through."

Despite breakdowns in several areas, the Yellow Jackets nearly pulled out a victory. A late fumble gave them the ball late, and they drove the ball deep into Clemson's territory. But Eric Sampson intercepted a pass by A.J. Suggs at the 16-yard line, thwarting the rally.

Two years ago, in a similar situation, Georgia Tech scored a touchdown with 7 seconds left to beat the Tigers.

"I was pretty confident that we were going to drive down the field and score, and it would've been another come-from-behind win," tailback Tony Hollings said.

Hollings did his part, running for 147 yards in his third career start in the backfield. A converted safety, he's ranked fifth in the country in rushing. He's trying hard to put the defeat out of his head.

"A game like that stays in the back of your mind," Hollings said. "You think you should win those games, but you've got to put that behind you and get ready for a new opponent."

Georgia Tech wasn't able to do that a year ago. After the Clemson loss, the Yellow Jackets dropped another overtime game two weeks later to Maryland. That sent them out of the top 20, and three more losses in the final four regular-season games left them unranked.

"We've got the chemistry this year among the coaches and players that we can put that behind us and go out and play our game," Hollings said. "That was just a game that got away from us."

Coach Chan Gailey wasn't a part of the team's collapse last season, but he's seen enough to doubt it will happen again.

"I feel very good about our senior leadership," Gailey said. "I think they know what's at stake, and they do not want to experience the things they experienced in the past."